I Was Arrogant Enough to Think You Were Listening

Comedian Carol Burnett tells an insightful story about a serious talk she had with her young daughter in the aftermath of discipline. Carol congratulated herself for her eloquence and her amazing ability to hold her spellbound daughter’s attention as she pontificated about morality, only to be brought rudely back to reality by the response.

After Carol had exhausted her store of platitudes, her daughter was still staring as if waiting for more. So, as a good lecturer should, she opened the discussion up for questions. Her young daughter responded thoughtfully, “How many teeth do you have exactly?”

I have gone years in relationships with my spouse, kids, associates, and friends, etc. thinking one thing to be true, only to be slapped in the face with an utterly different reality of their relationship story. Times I thought were good, they thought were bad or mediocre at best. Traditions, discussions, and celebrations I had deemed brilliant, they had discussed with therapists. What?

Two acquaintances recently bragged to me about how they had set their children straight with their insight and advice. I wanted to gag and fought off the desire to laugh in their face. How dense can we be?

Here are some of the common illusions that communication has occurred we cling to…

  • If we nag enough they will finally get it
  • People want my unsolicited advice
  • When someone appears to be listening, they are
  • My opinions are always valued
  • I can really help people if they will just listen to me
  • My experience gives me the right to pontificate
  • My position gives me the right to pontificate
  • People will usually take my advice and do what I suggest
  • I understand what they are going through
  • I understand what they are thinking

Generally speaking, more often than not, we are clueless.

losing an illusion

Emerson quote

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